India's dream if entering the semi-finals of the World Cup 1999 might even remain a dream. Going to the Super six of the championship with empty hands has given them a situation where they have to win all the three Super Six matches. Still at the end of the Super Six, calculators may be back to life to spot a couple of, if not all, semi-finalists. Be that as it may.
The Indian cricketers have done a great service to Indian cricket by putting up a brave, classical front to demolish three teams - Kenya, Sri Lanka and England - in a row to regain not only their confidence but also, more importantly, their reputation in the world scene. Hailing from a land where they are worshipped, the Indian cricketers could not afford to get succumbed to the pressures of World Cup. They did not thus far. That must have come as a fresh news to all those who are associated with this sport in India. Suppose, India had failed to qualify for the Super Six, it would have had a terrible impact on the very structure of Indian cricket. Indian cricket's popularity graph-line has been on the upward trend for the last two decades.
A downward trend towards the end of this century would only upset the plans for the future. The administrators of the game have performed stupendously over the decades to make cricket a household passion. The game has given a new, refreshing life to the commercial world of India. No sports administrator could have asked for more. So at this stage, with the world entering into a new century, Indian cricket cannot stand any jolt through miserable shows at the international arena. Whatever happens to India in the World Cup 1999 during the final stage of the championship, one can say, without any fear of contradiction, that Indian cricket is still living and kicking. Indian public turns angry and frustrated only when its cricketers lose a game like novices. When they lose after a tenacious fight, the public sympathy will always be with the cricketers. There are pages in the Indian cricket history, which would drive home the above point convincingly.
So now is the time for all those who are associated with the game in India to sit and draw a foolproof scheme to take Indian cricket to the 21st century with stronger will and bigger image. This is an era where the marriage between sports administrator and a sponsor should not end after the honeymoon. It's a life-long bondage that demands high degree of responsibility and foresight. Once the world cup fever gets over, the Indian cricket Board (BCCI) sponsors and various others, who are willing to contribute their mite to this sport must chart out a master plan to restructure the system on imaginative lines. The current domestic system is no doubt a well-planned one. Right from the under-14 age group there are Board tournaments in this country.
But the complaint is: The gulf in the standard of the top 15 of 20 players of the country and that of the players in the lower rung is becoming wider and wider. Unless this is narrowed down considerably, this large nation had to depend on the class and ability of the top 15 or 20 for many more seasons to come. That is certainly detrimental. For, in modern cricket world the nations play a lot of cricket. That brings money, popularity and a lot of entertainment. There is no point in complaining that "our boys" are playing too much of cricket. You would certainly not feel that if only you have secondary line to take over when ever some members of the top rung become tired or get injured. There must be a gradation through which India can safeguard the interest of its top stars. At the start of an international season, some of the tournaments could be reserved for the top stars. To put it in a nutshell, if there are 40 international matches for India in a chosen season, they should not play their top stars in all the 40. A system should be evolved in such a manner that no top star stands to lose financially.
Yet another aspect that deserves immediate attention is: international players MUST play at least a chosen number of domestic marches. In fact, it must be understood that the domestic circuit should never clash with an international championship, so that the top stars play the entire domestic season. The purpose behind this suggestion is: If the star players take part in the domestic circuit, the lesser lights get inspired. For example, if a Ranji Trophy batsman aspiring to play for the country, his caliber could be tested to near-perfection if he was batting against the likes of Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, Kumble and Agarkar. Likewise, a prospective Ranji trophy bowler's worth would be known only when he bowls at men like Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly.
In no other country, a domestic circuit is made to suffer from the absence of top stars. It is a great blessing to the selectors as they could obtain a genuine assessment of the aspirants. Moreover, when the domestic circuit clash with an international programme, even the talented ones in the domestic circuit suffer from lack of motivation. That apart, big knocks and excellent bowling figures seldom impress the critics and the selectors as such achievements were made when the stars were away. This might appear ridiculous. But then that is the truth.